Random notes, idle thoughts and praising Arizona ...
-- Around this time of the year, baseball fans in California start mulling over the possibility of an Arizona road trip, for spring training.
My advice is, stop mulling. Just go.
From much of Southern California, you can get in your car after breakfast and be in the February-March center of the baseball universe, Phoenix, for a late lunch.
Fifteen teams, the same number as in Florida, begin training in Arizona this week. The Dodgers and Angels start games on Feb. 26, and the Padres the next day.
Here's why Arizona is a no-brainer.
First, I'm assuming most of you don't sit with the wives, agents and divorce lawyers in the box seats behind home plate when you visit one of our lovely big league stadiums during the regular season. In the cozy Arizona ballparks, you'll be so close to the action, a player might spit a sunflower seed in your lap. You can put it on eBay that night.
Also, if you get to one of the complexes early, or stake out the parking lot after the game, it may be your best chance all year to snag an autograph or a picture, or tell the Dodgers Matt Kemp in person to lay off the breaking ball away.
And happily, your favorite team hasn't dropped out of contention, yet, leaving you to imagine that you're witnessing the start of a magical, championship season.
On the cold reality side of things, one warning: Way too many people I know who have driven to Arizona in the past year end up with a surprise souvenir: a speeding ticket, complete with a grainy photo of themselves in their offending car, taken by the state's ubiquitous highway cameras. If you drive any faster than one of Vicente Padilla's blooper curves, you're tempting fate.
-- Last week's Carmelo Anthony-for-Andrew Bynum rumor may have been less solid than Christina Aguilera's "Star-Spangled Banner," but it made for interesting Lakers' discussion.
That is, when is a certified NBA superstar (that would be Anthony) not worth as much as a critical role player (that would be Bynum)? The answer would be "right now."
If you were starting an NBA team, and your choices were Anthony or Bynum, you'd go with Anthony, an exceptionally gifted scorer and decent rebounder. But a title-worthy team is usually a well-balanced collection of talent, and the Lakers are still the championship favorite because they have what almost no one else does -- three very tall, skilled players in Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.
In the end, Melo-for-Drew was tempting, but unwise, at least for another four months.
-- Only in golf does an athlete get chastised for spitting on the ground, but Tiger Woods' "present" in Dubai was justly punished. On the green is a no-no, as bad as leaving one on a basketball court.
In most sports, you have to spit on a person to attract attention. Football and soccer have numerous instances of such disgusting behavior, but the pa-tooie incident that forever claims "most notorious" is Roberto Alomar in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck. Woods' moment of grossness will likely be forgotten soon, but Alomar's misadventure from 1996 is part of the lore of his career, and even rehashed in the debate over his Hall of Fame credentials this winter. Even so, we're guessing Cooperstown never requested any, uh, mementos.